Bear Physiology and
A sedentary lifestyle has been shown to hasten the aging process and raise the risk of developing several serious health problems, such as metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, kidney failure, loss of skeletal muscle, and osteoporosis. On the other hand, brown bears have developed a unique ability to maintain their metabolic health, even during prolonged periods of inactivity during hibernation, when they avoid the health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle such as blood clots, heart attacks, diabetes, kidney failure, and loss of muscle and bone. These animals, being physiologically closer to humans compared to the commonly used experimental animals in medical research, rodents, could serve as a better model for the development of treatments for lifestyle-related diseases in humans. Our research, which is a multidisciplinary effort, on the hibernation survival strategies of brown bears, aims to learn from these animals and develop treatment strategies and drug targets that could benefit humans.
Brown bears are known for their 6-month long period of hibernation, during which they remain physically inactive. Yet, when they exit their den in the spring, they are free from cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, muscle loss, and osteoporosis. Their unique physiology may hold valuable insights for preventing diseases in humans caused by physical inactivity. Illustration from J Intern Med. 2020; 287:263.